Looking for the helpers (AGAIN)

October 2, 2017
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky

Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry

Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind

I am looking for the Fred Rogers piece on “looking for the helpers” (AGAIN) after the news begins to sink in this morning. At least 58 dead and over 400 injured, the largest mass shooting in recent US history. I realize I practically have Mr. Rogers’ advice memorized; we don’t have to dust off the directions on how to talk to kids about today’s atrocities, because these shootings just keep coming. On the heels of all the hurricanes too, we are just all too prepared to know what to say to our children. Except we don’t really. How many tears can we cry in front of them before they’ll feel terrified?

With our government in its alarmingly constant state of gridlock, distraction, and despicably infantile tweets, suggesting that a way to feel hopeful and to make change could be to write a letter to your elected official feels woefully inadequate.

In my feeling of helplessness, there is a spark of fierce protectiveness that is burning bright and it’s from that place this piece of advice emerges: because of the worrisome things Trump is saying and doing each day (especially with regard to North Korea, but really no subject or group is safe) I think it is essential to monitor what you let your children listen to or watch in terms of news coverage. Mr. T is just so unfiltered, which can make kids: 1) be afraid that something like a nuclear attack could happen in the blink of an eye, 2) think that snap judgments and nasty quips are acceptable forms of leadership, 3) decide that they think they “hate” Mr. Trump or others because that is the tone that’s being set.

By the time children are in middle school I believe they can, with adult support, read and listen to the news and make sense of it. In fact, having regular opportunities to analyze and discuss current events (in developmentally appropriate formats) is recommended for children beginning around age 11. Earlier than that, most kids don’t have the firm foundation of logical reasoning that enables them to parse and compartmentalize disturbing events, especially extreme violence. Of course, sometimes the news or event (such as today’s) is so pervasive that it may be unavoidable in which case calling on the Mr. Rogers in all of us is a great idea. The bottom line is, limit your child’s exposure to violent, disturbing news they have no control over.

Charlie Spencer, Head of School
Contact Charlie: Email
Phone: 413-773-1700
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